Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A prophet for me...

This is a prediction I can buy into.
“Prosperity spreads, technology progresses, poverty declines, disease retreats, fecundity falls, happiness increases, violence atrophies, freedom grows, knowledge flourishes, the environment improves and wilderness expands.”
If you’re not ready to trust an optimist, if you still fear a reckoning is at hand, you might consider the words of Thomas B. Macaulay, a British poet, historian and politician who criticized doomsayers of the mid-1800s.
“We cannot absolutely prove,” he wrote, “that those are in error who tell us that society has reached a turning point, that we have seen our best days. But so said all who came before us, and with just as much apparent reason.” [More]
While much of what is mentioned above seems logical to me, the core of my optimism is based on having a growing number of brains working on the solutions to our always-numerous problems, instead of a few million in the West. I think we will see an outpouring of innovation in a wide scope of human endeavor simply because more people have more information - and information inevitably leads to freedom.

Also, after listening to too lectures about the Middle Ages - which were badly mislabeled "Dark" - I realize progress continued albeit fitfully even then.  Humanity was largely held back by religious orthodoxy and plague, from which we bounced back with surprising power.

I see little facing us that is beyond a conceivable human solution.


Anonymous said...

I'm sorry. But just because there are folks that can be cited as wrong in the past does not mean today's numbers can't be looked at critically. The industrial revolution is fueled by cheap and seemingly limitless energy and other resources. To assume that these resources will remain limitless as we build to 10 billion people on the planet is presumptive. It is about what the numbers say, not what we would like to think.
Best, Dan.

John Phipps said...


I do not suggest we won't be constrained - and seriously - by resources, but that (as a matter of faith, I'll admit) I think we'll find a way.

A very different, but nonetheless very good life for humanity is doable, IMHO. Given enough freedom around the world, we'll find how to build it.

To be fair, as I have posted before, I tend to belong to the lower-estimate camp for population growth with a top around 7.5-8B.

Anonymous said...

Hi John,
Really, I'd like to believe in a beautiful future. And it might be possible with some very fundamental change in how humanity plans. But I don't see these plans. We still operate with economies that require growth to stay healthy. And it is the kind of growth that demands an increase use of energy. Here is my blog:

Take a look at the second to the last chart, 'Our apatite for energy'. This industrial revolution is as if a flash in the pan of human history.

Best, Dan.